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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Trinidad & Tobago

"The more difficulties one sees in the world the more perfect one becomes. The more you plough and dig the ground the more fertile it becomes. The more you cut the branches of a tree the higher and stronger it grows. The more you put the gold in the fire the purer it becomes. The more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing the greater his knowledge becomes." - 'Abdu'l-Bahá
Last night my time, just was I was getting ready for bed, an earthquake of magnitude 6.3 shook Christchurch, New Zealand so violently that buildings collapsed in on themselves, roads buckled and ripped apart, cars were flattened beneath rubble falling from buildings, water pipes burst, and sinkholes opened up all over the city. I have a very close friend who lives in Christchurch whose family home was damaged so severely in the country's last major earthquake, in September 2010, that the building had already been identified as one that needs to be torn down and rebuilt in the near-future, so the news that another earthquake had struck, and only three miles beneath the city, had me worried sick for Pascale and her family. 
After watching video clips of the cathedral's steeple collapsing, the entire downtown area in rubble, and seeing images of people emerging from beneath buildings covered in blood, I got on Facebook to see if Pascale had posted any updates on how they were doing. 
Pascale is an amazing woman. She is a personal trainer who works with her clients not only on their physical fitness, but on their spiritual fitness as well. She is empowering and tremendously inspiring. But to be honest I did not expect to find three video clips of her experience of the earthquake online already. Clicking on the first, I watched as Pascale narrated a video of the flooded street outside her house, explaining that the street had literally gotten soft like a sponge as a result of liquefaction. Her second clip, which started with an image of one wall of her house which had completely collapsed on top of her neighbour's car, was titled: We told her not to park her car there. This clip then moved inside Pascale's home. The walls all have huge cracks climbing them like lightening rods. The ceilings are all cracked, the doorways and arches are cracked, and then there was that pesky entire wall that had completely dropped away and collapsed outwards. Pascale and her family had to move down the street to stay with extended family as their house, which had been badly damaged, is now unsafe to inhabit. Her third video clip takes a walk outside to have a look at the creek that is usually a small stream alongside her house. In the clip it had become a large pond that was the colour of gunpowder. Pascale commented on how much more water there was in it, but then she exclaimed, in a bright and cheerful voice: "But the ducks made it! Way to go Trinidad and Tobago!" 
Now I don't know about anyone else, but when your entire city is literally collapsing around you, you have no power or running water, your only car with a full tank of gas is stranded in a parking garage that may or may not still be standing, and all of your work for the week has been canceled, it seems to me like the lives of two ducks would be the last thing on your mind. But there are many reasons why I love this woman, and her endless optimism would definitely be one of them. Hearing her joy at the fact that Trinidad and Tobago made it through the quake made me laugh out loud. And the fact that she has two resident ducks on her property who she had the brilliant idea to name Trinidad and Tobago had me well-amused as well.
Since then, Pascale has gone on to find a well that she can get water from with a bucket, has nominated herself as resident tea-maker for anyone and everyone in the house, and even sat down to enjoy a hot bowl of meat stew with gratitude, despite being a vegetarian. Yes, I would say Pascale is definitely an example of seeing the glass as half full. 
As I moved through my own day, I found myself stopping often and thinking about Pascale and her ability to keep her cool, stay calm and positive and encouraging of others in the face of a tremendous amount of stress. She is someone I have a lot to learn from. As she presses forward into the difficult days and weeks ahead, and tries, along with her fellow community-members, to rebuild her life and her home, I will be praying for her and her fellow New Zealanders. I will also be taking time every day to find my own Trinidad and Tobago. We can't all have ducks, but finding and celebrating the joy, beauty and hope that exist even in the most dire circumstances is definitely within all of our grasp.


  1. i love you Ariana, so, so much

    Thank you for letting me read of your joy before i lay down to rest for the first time in 45 hours - you have made me smile and see the blessings that we have been given, even though disguised as trials. Who knows what these next months will hold...but i do know this; we were meant to live. I feel that so strongly - there is so much carnage here, so many deaths, so many hundreds still missing, so many homeless...what strength i feel having the Faith to provide an explanation to my mind and true solace to my heart.

    hugs to you my dear soul sister! (and so far, no postie!)

  2. this story is the best. i will never forget it. i hope to be so calm and positive in the face of such adversity. thank you.

  3. @Pascale: You know I watched a video of Ruhiyyih Khanum a while ago. She was telling friends that they it is true that we will encounter situations that we do not have enough personal strength to confront. But that the strength we need to get us through anything is reliance on the strength of God, because it is a limitless ocean of strength. I am saying prayers for you all, dear Pascale. Keep us posted on how things are going. We will keep praying. xox

  4. @ Pamela: You are one of the calmest and most positive people I know! Whenever I think or speak of couples who relate to each other with kindness and respect, never raising their voice with each other or with their children even in moments of stress, I always think of you, and your relationship with Dash and your children.